Pay cuts, valuations slashed by HALF and uncertainty for those whose contracts end in June… one agent reveals the problems facing footballers as the transfer market hangs in the balance
- Clubs all over the country on the brink as coronavirus crisis halts football
- Hundreds of players are out of contract in the summer with uncertain futures
- The transfer market is also in danger of collapsing due to the crisis
- A top football agent reveals the problems facing footballers
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
With so much uncertainty surrounding football while the coronavirus crisis halts play and potentially cripples clubs up and down the country, football agents are caught in the middle of it all more than ever as they try to look after their players’ interests. Here, an agent with players in all four of England’s top divisions gives Sportsmail his opinion on how the the crisis will affect football in the short and long term.
There is a saying in football that many live a champagne lifestyle on a Coca Cola budget. There is a lot of anxiety at the moment. This is the most nervous many players have been because you can’t even guarantee that clubs will survive to the end of it.
If you are under contract you are protected but those who are at the end of their deals are facing worrying times.
Liverpool’s Anfield stadium is deserted while football remains suspended in lockdown
If you are in the Championship and earning £10,000 a week then you should be able to save, you must be doing something stupid if you haven’t got something put aside, but if you’re on £1,000 or even £2,000 then once you’ve paid your mortgage, car and other outgoings, there isn’t much left to fall back on once you stop earning. To then face the prospect of not earning for three or four months, that’s a worry in any walk of life, even though there is not much sympathy for footballers.
Players contracts run until June 30 then they get paid a month’s severance. I know chairmen have been writing to players asking ‘would you mind playing through your month of severance so I can ascertain how many players are available should we return?’
The question then comes, does that chairman intend to offer the player a new contract? If he can’t give that assurance the player has to consider the risks. If he picks up an injury and is out for eight to 12 weeks from the end of July then he is not going to be well placed to be picked up by a new club, especially if the next season starts in August.
But again that’s another point of concern as we don’t know when the next season will start. It could mean a player going even longer without wages if they put it back to October for example.
Some clubs had a budget for wages of up to £3.6million but now need to slash it down to £1.25m or even less. Clubs such as Colchester United and Scunthorpe are releasing a lot of players because they can’t afford to keep them on but then they will need players to play if they are required to finish the games.
A few of the clubs I have spoken to in League One and League Two do not think they will finish the season, so if players are left without pay for three or four months, do the PFA then step in with a relief fund?
I can see a lot of smaller agencies going to the wall if the season is cancelled and teams are relegated with no further games played.
Generally, in the lower leagues, there is a 20 per cent cut in salary if teams are relegated so as a consequence an agent’s commission is minimal but would drop accordingly.
A lot of agencies only have players in League One, League Two and non-League so this could hit them hard, particularly as some of the clubs will say ‘we can’t afford to pay agents’.
League One leaders Coventry are having to wait to secure promotion to the Championship
I might have to let staff go from our agency if they aren’t able to bring in revenue from those players and if there is no capacity for growth.
Ninety per cent or more of players’ contracts will have clauses in related to relegation or promotion. However, I think what you will also see from future contract negotiations is a ‘pandemic clause’. One where should this happen again then maybe up to 50 per cent of wages is cut or deferred.
Players are also worried about being released and not having a club to go to. There has been a lot of time now to consider the implications and that can be tough mentally, increasing the anxiety. Unless you are a very good player then clubs can’t commit to saying they will take you on next season.
Budgets are being slashed, players will be released, younger players brought in, as they will be paid less, and wages will come down. There will a knock-on effect to supply and demand because clubs will want smaller squads. A lot of players will be out of contract but there will be less places for them to go to. Clubs will then have the upper hand. Whereas before you may have been on £1,500 a week and demand that, a club will say ‘sorry, you’ll have to take £1,000’ because they know they can find another player from the pile.
Primarily though we need to save the clubs. No-one has asked my players to take a cut yet but if they need to take a deferral to save the club then I believe we need to for the benefit of the game long-term.
In terms of the summer transfer window, League One players such as Ivan Toney at Peterborough United were valued at £10million in January, what price will they be this summer?
Perhaps £5m? Quality players will still command a good price but it depends how well the club has survived this.
Many are waiting to see the first deal to determine whether that price sets the tone but for many it’s going to be very different to what they had planned for.
As Rick Parry has been pushing for, the sensible solution will be to keep the window open for as long as possible. If they put a deadline on it then we will end up with rash decisions as people rush in late on. That will leave hundreds of players on the scrapheap.
EFL chief Rick Parry has been pushing to keep the transfer window open as long as possible
Clubs need to have a freedom at this time to sell if they need to and pick up players further down the line. Talking to many they are looking at maybe swapping players or using as makeweights because the cash just won’t be there.
Foreign clubs may be harder hit so there may be better bargains there while the guidelines we feared over Brexit and work permits may be bypassed for now.
I think it will take another two or three windows beyond this before football returns to normal but it’s important certainly for the lower leagues that this summer’s window is left open for as long as possible.
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